Southampton - Proteas coach Ottis Gibson says that AB de Villiers told him of his World Cup availability just hours before the South African squad announcement on April 18. 

It is a staggering revelation.

According to Gibson, who addressed media in Southampton on Saturday ahead of his side's crucial clash against the West Indies on Monday, De Villiers phoned him either on the morning of the squad announcement or the night before to declare his availability. 

"It was the morning of or the night before, I can't remember," Gibson, who was grilled by South African media on the issue, said.

"I can't remember his exact words, but he asked if there was any chance he could come back.

"I said I would have to check with Cricket South Africa and the chairman of selectors. We all came to the conclusion that he had left it too late."

De Villiers was in India at the time, and Gibson confirmed that he had also received a call from captain Faf du Plessis during the IPL alerting him to the fact that De Villiers was considering making a U-turn on his retirement.

He only heard from De Villiers himself, though, in the hours leading up to the squad selection.

It all points towards discussions between De Villiers and Du Plessis at the IPL.

While Gibson relayed the message to selection convenor Linda Zondi, he says he always felt that it would be a push to include De Villiers, who retired from international cricket in May last year.

"He was told that if he wanted to be available then Pakistan and Sri Lanka (ODI series earlier this year) were games he needed to play, and obviously he didn't," Gibson said.

"I actually saw him in December during the Mzansi Super League at Centurion.

"I asked him if he was finished with this retirement nonsense yet and he said he was happy with his retirement and with the decision he has made. That was the end of that as far as I was concerned and the Proteas was concerned."

Gibson also confirmed that he had spoken to De Villiers on the day of his international retirement, pleading with him to reconsider, but that De Villiers had been certain of his decision. 

"The fact is that he made his decision and said continuously since then that he was happy with the decision he had made," Gibson said.

"He knew that those 10 games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka were vitally important for us and he made his choice."

The De Villiers media bombshell could not have come at a worse time for the Proteas, who have lost three from three at the World Cup.

Gibson and his charges must now try their best to put it all to one side and focus on Monday's match. 

"AB can't help us because he is not here," Gibson said.

"I suspect that there are a lot more people wanting AB to be here than AB himself.

"If he wanted to be here, he would be here, but he is wherever he is in the world right now doing exactly what he wants to be doing."

@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ...